The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Need for Speed

Need for Speed (PG-13)
Film Review

By Amy Diaz

 Every car movie needs a good guy caught up in a bad situation, and here that guy is Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul). By day he runs a nearing-bankruptcy auto repair shop and by night he participates in illegal street races. Though he’s a top-notch racer, he doesn’t quite win enough to keep the bank from threatening to foreclose. So when local-jerk-made-good racer Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) asks Tobey to do some work for him, Tobey agrees, even though he can’t stand Dino, who, in addition to general movie-villain jerkiness, is now with Tobey’s sweet-but-weenie-ish ex-girlfriend, Anita (Dakota Johnson). Tobey spiffies up a fancy Mustang that Dino sells for big bucks after plucky English girl Julia (Imogen Poots) recommends to her boss that he buy it. Even though the sale means a big payday for Tobey, he gets lured by Dino into the promise of an even bigger payday: They will race in some not-yet-street-legal European test cars and the winner will take all of the proceeds from the sale. Tobey can’t resist the challenge or the chance to drive a super fancy car — nor can Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), Anita’s little brother. Even though Dino is (or soon becomes? or something?) Pete’s brother-in-law, Pete hangs with and idolizes Tobey. 

“Golly, Tobey, you’re the best. I know you’re going to win and everything’s going to be great. I hope my boundless optimism isn’t a bit of dramatic irony foreshadowing my own grisly demise,” says Pete (or something to that effect — the movie makes it very clear that he shouldn’t make post-race dinner plans). When the race ends in a crash, Tobey turns back to try to save Pete, and Dino (who caused the crash) drives away and hides the evidence of his involvement. As a result, Dino comforts Anita at the funeral while Tobey is at the police station and eventually sent to prison for two years. 
When he gets out, Tobey is all about revenge, and that’s where a race called the De Leon comes in. Run by a  wealthy racing fan/video podcaster named Monarch (Michael Keaton), the De Leon features the top street racers in the world, playing, winner takes all, for the cars of the other competitors. Tobey borrows the fancy car he sold to Julia’s boss and heads off to get his crew back together and compete in the race, which somehow helps him avenge Pete’s death — that part, now that I look back on it, is kind of unclear. What is clear is that the borrowing the Mustang gives Tobey a reason to hang out with Julia, a fellow car aficionado.
So, Tobey’s motivations don’t completely make sense. Nor do several aspects of the big race that serve as the movie’s plot engine — in particular, the winner wins all the other people’s cars? This would seem to be a real mixed bag of a prize in an event where, at best, cars get smashed up and, at worst, they end up upside down and in flames. I also don’t really understand why the subplot about the Tobey-Anita-Dino triangle is anything we needed to spend any time with. This movie is two hours and 10 minutes long — that is nearly 25 minutes longer than the original The Fast and the Furious and a good 35 minutes longer than this movie needed to be. 
Anything that isn’t cars, cars going fast, cars going fast and crashing, or cars going fast and crashing and exploding is unnecessary. There is not one interesting line of dialogue or one character who you really care anything about. There is exactly one scene not related to cars that is worth sitting through — a “getting the band back together” scene where one of Tobey’s former mechanic buddies makes certain that he will never try to go back to his boring office job — and it doesn’t have any relevance to the movie nor does the character ever take front stage again. 
That said, anything that is about cars, cars going fast, cars going fast and crashing or cars going fast and crashing and exploding isn’t that bad. If all you ask of this movie is that it show you cool-looking cars and then show those cars doing cool things, it succeeds. And though no one is ever as engaging as Vin Diesel or Michelle Rodriguez, Need for Speed shares that early Fast & Furious exuberance about cars and gets as excited about this Mustang or that Swedish sports car. And while I don’t know anything about this kind of car — I have actually thought the words “cool station wagon” recently — the movie made me feel appreciative of the cars’ beauty and performance. Sure, that makes it sound like a really long Mustang commercial, which it sort of was, but that section of the movie nonetheless held my interest.
If you enjoy the idea of snazzed up sports cars just enough to consider seeing this movie but not enough to actually develop a fandom for any kind of racing, Need for Speed is probably a solid pick for your home video viewing in a few months. C+ 
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language. Directed by Scott Waugh with a screenplay by George Gatins, Need for Speed is distributed by Walt Disney Studios and is two hours and 10 minutes long

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